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Arsenal Transfer Target: James McCarthy

Arsenal have been linked to Wigan's £8m rated midfield-roaming libero maestro.

Chris Brunskill

In Sunday's Mirror, Arsenal were linked with an £8m move for Wigan midfielder James McCarthy. McCarthy should be well known to Arsenal fans after he expertly martialed Santi Cazorla from an unfamiliar roaming libero role. McCarthy, 22, has been at Wigan since moving there from Hamilton Academical in 2009, and under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, has flourished into one of the better passing midfielders in the Premier League. And while some fans may prefer to see a more glamourous and recognisable name, James McCarthy has that vaunted Premier League experience, having played almost 100 league games for Wigan.

With such Premier League experience, McCarthy would be able to fit into Arsenal's team straight away, offering a more defensive partner for Mikel Arteta in Arsenal's double pivot. McCarthy's versatility means he could be the perfect player for this role; not only is McCarthy an excellent defensive player, making the 9th most tackles among Premier League midfielders, but he is also an excellent distributor, making 57.2 passes per game at a rate of 88.6% in a team that doesn't always have a majority of possession. McCarthy could easily be thought of as a long-term replacement for Mikel Arteta, as he normally plays as the deepest midfielder at Wigan, with James McArthur, another good tackling, passing midfielder, a little more dynamic. Yet, despite playing as the deepest midfielder, McCarthy can still get forward and influence the attacking play, as he showed against Arsenal, when he created three chances, and also took players on in the attacking third.

These attributes would make him perfect for Arsenal's midfield; with Abou Diaby, Arsenal have been lacking a player who can show defensive discipline and retain shape, before going forward to join in attacking play. McCarthy could easily be that player, and while he doesn't have the no-nonsense style of someone like Alex Song, he's still an excellent defensive player. Furthermore, because he's used to playing as Wigan's deepest midfielder, he could easily stay back when Arsenal win possession, and let Mikel Arteta, who hasn't really shown his offensive qualities this season even in the way he did last year, get forward more. That would give Arsenal's midfield more fluidity, and while there are concerns about Arsenal's midfielders perhaps lacking a little bit of dynamism, but, again, McCarthy has showed that he's good at taking players on and beating them.

Overall, McCarthy would be a good signing. His Premier League experience, especially with a team, Wigan, that plays in a similar style with Arsenal, would mean he could come straight in and help Arsenal and regain some defensive solidity and midfield fluidity.

Via the excellent @CulannDavies